Wednesday, June 14, 2017

We Are Rolling?

There have been other times recently when I felt like, yes, things were in motion. The story was being told. Pages were adding up. Stuff was happening.

Each time, the energy sooner or later wandered off, twiddling its thumbs with boredom.

One of the last things that Monique said to me was, "You have to let it do what it wants to do. That's the only way it can come to life."

This has always meant that, whatever I thought the plan was, I'm going to have to let it slip its leash and then just trundle along after it, cleaning up as I go. This means, for a writer, that every time any  character does something that wasn't in the script, the entire script that came before needs to be tweaked to make it fit.Foreshadowing as afterthought. Buildup as cleanup.

The reward, however, is a story that's actually alive. And in the last few days, Aias has continually done things that I absolutely did not expect. So the cleaning up has been extensive, but totally worth it.

Monday, June 5, 2017

I Am Not a Lawyer And...

...  I don't even play one on TV.

Nevertheless, I have long, long been aware that if I am going to include brief quotations from various people at the heads of chapters, I should gracefully and officially note those quotes, lest someone object and sue me.

Lucky for me, Word includes a reference tab. I fiddled with references and footnotes, and finally settled on using endnotes, which would be the least obtrusive, and let me assemble all the notes on a single page following the entire text. See?

You will learn; you will all learn. But not from me.[i]
— John Gardner

This is the opening quote for volume one, The Hostage. It sits all alone on its very own page, after the dedications page and before page one of the actual story. And on the final page of the entire book, is:

[1] Gardner, John. Grendel. Alfred A Knopf, 1971.

Simple, unobtrusive, and I dare say, elegant.

 Then, after more than a few clumsy experiments and with thanks to the internet for hunting the quotes down (especially Goodreads, which often includes the sources of quotes, which most quotation sites don't), I was able to relocate and cite the immediate sources of all 15 quotes except two. For those, I cheated by citing one of the authors' books that the title implied MIGHT be where the quote could be found.

And this whole process, from learning to formatting to fiddling to completion, took only about 3.5 hours including pouring and reheating coffee, and writing this blog entry.

SO glad that I am no longer an academic!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Draft Book Cover

I can't even tell you have many hours it took to get that picture on the cover, but it's finally there.

Michael, my editor, doesn't like the back-cover blurb,so we'll work on it when he returns from vacation. I think I favor K S R Berck for the author name, and it will fit on the edge without vanishing at the end.

Otherwise, I like it a lot, and the same style will work for all four volumes.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Art and Applied Geometry

I have spent at least 25 hours of this past week or so formatting The Hostage for CreateSpace.

It was (still is) intensely fiddly work:
Most obvious, I exchanged the save-a-space 'Chapter One, Chapter Two' etcetera for Mycenaean numerals (thank you, my friends, for doing your math in base 10, and using simple geometric shapes rather than pictographs).

 Found and corrected scores of formatting errors, such as tabs instead of indents, and indents that offset headings and time breaks that were meant to be centered.

Assured that internal breaks would not fall at the tops of any pages, so that before leafing over, the reader is warned that we are doing a time or place jump.

Experimented extensively with font, pitch, line spacing, and margins, adjusting for enough but not too much white space so that a page doesn't present itself as solid type, but also doesn't look fluffed; like it's trying to be more than it is. At 6X9 overall page size and 11 pitch, the book settles at 313 pages total, 307 of actual text. At 5.5 X 8.25, it is 355 pages, and that is still 32 lines of text per page, which is within the average. Most self-published books, I learned yesterday, run far closer to 200 pages, while most traditionally published books run from the high 200s and up. So this book can keep company with the grownups. All of this noted, I don't much like an overall size smaller than 6X9, because then the pitch has to be 10 which looks tiny on the screen, although on a book page it might be fine.

Asleep yet?

And an hour ago, of course, I finally understood how important gutters are and how I have to design them myself. And how to mirror pages in Word. So a whole lot of - okay, let's call it fun - messing with trying to keep the text page count above 300 while not running the inner margin into the dark, or making it look like a children's book.

And just now, oh shit, justification.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

And the Funny Part is ....

The first part that I wrote of this saga, in a hot burst that I have never regretted, or even had to edit much, was an anecdote about a hunter who kills a family of wild dogs that prey on his goats, but saves a puppy or two that he raises and trains to protect his goats and hunt wild dogs. The conclusion is:

"A tool is what it is. The moment it’s created, it’s what it was meant to be. But you’re not innocent of the deeds you perform just because Fate chose them. It chooses you, chooses the deeds, chooses the guilt, and that’s it. There’s a reason we kill the sons when we kill the fathers."

And what is this whole story about, if not that?

I knew this years ago. Now it's time to make it work

As If!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Cover Draft

Amazon's Createspace is clever, but extremely bossy and strict. Took five hours (!!) to get that axe on the draft cover. But I think it's sort of overall pretty damned cool.

PS - Yeah, the back cover blurb is not so good. Already have a new draft ready to post when Amazon frees it up again: no reason to mention the Bronze Age nor Mycenae - 

"In the sleet-blown winter of 1107 BC, an untouchable outlaw returns to Greece. His only desire is to bury the bodies of his brothers, whom he murdered forty years before, whether or not that act will win him redemption. But the only survivor of the slaughter, two compelling kings, two women who understand men far too well, and the Great Serpent of Delphi have other plans."

Sadly - but not really - my inestimable editor doesn't like the blurb and is now on his way to two weeks in Andalusia, so I'll have to wait for his (probably far better) suggestions.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

At a Dead End. This Time, THE Dead End

Thank you, thank you, to the impulse that made me save the MS that I thought was hopeless more than two years ago. Since then I have labored diligently to bring a new, improved version to life, only to trip over it again and again as it lay near-lifeless in my path.

No, you can't revive manuscripts like this, either
Half an hour ago, I dug the old corpse out of the archive and yes, yes, yes. This is what was meant all along. Even as I zoomed through it on screen, just catching the gist, I could hear a sudden hard intake of breath somewhere nearby.

Ajax is alive after all.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Turning Over Rocks

Every published iteration - and there have been SO many of them - of the Iliad has been deadly bland in the area of cultural understanding. The problems, the dilemmas, the disagreements, the gut-level understanding of the world and how it works have all been modern, clean, first-world issues.

But what if the Iliad took place in a wholly Other world, one so foreign that it could be a different planet circling a different star? One in which people's understanding of one another and all that surrounds them is utterly unlike those that we wake up to every morning? One that is truly more than three thousand years old?

I often claim that historical fiction and science fiction are - or should be - twins. Both take some things that we know for sure, accept the rules that accompany those things, but then spin them into a wholly new pattern. The best scifi does that delightfully; 99% of historical fiction does not. It simply dresses ordinary 'today' people in funny clothes, takes away the iPads, then dumps them into what are really modern beliefs and problems.

I have long, long known some interesting Greek behaviors, but - to my intense discredit - did not put those together with much broader, much older, cultural understandings and actions that reach far into both the historical and the physical past. Luckily, I stumbled onto a book that led to another that led to another, and now those interesting quirks carry a whole culture with them and color even the most casual glance at Homer with chilling other-ness.

There is almost nothing that's as interesting as turning over rocks to see what's under there...

 Now to explicate that!